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‘Cinderella’ casts a new spell on Broadway

‘Cinderella’ casts a new spell on Broadway

Mar 3, 2013

When the sweet-voiced, wholesomely beautiful Laura Osnes last appeared on Broadway, she was packing heat, in more than one sense: As memorable outlaw Bonnie Parker in 2011’s musical adaptation of Bonnie and Clyde, the young leading lady was armed and tempestuous in a way that fans who had watched her blossom in a string of ingenue roles might never have expected.

The new production of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella ( three 1/2 out of four) that opened Sunday at the Broadway Theatre finds Osnes less surprisingly cast, but just as beguiling. The musical, appearing on the Great White Way for the first time, began its life as a 1957 TV movie starring Julie Andrews — leaving the current star with a pretty big pair of glass slippers to fill.

But with guidance from director Mark Brokaw and librettist Douglas Carter Beane, Osnes and a gifted supporting cast make this fairy tale very much their own — a scrumptious trifle that, for all its hokey moments, will charm theatergoers of all ages.

Beane has revised the plot so that Cinderella is not merely a kind maiden in distress, but a curious young woman becoming aware of injustices beyond her own shabby treatment. As in Hammerstein’s original book, her wicked stepmother and stepsisters are funnier and less cartoonishly cruel than in the Disney version; but now one stepsister, Gabrielle, is being courted by a fledgling revolutionary named Jean-Michel, who sees the ruling regime as corrupt and oppressive.

We learn that peasants were treated fairly until the king and queen, who don’t appear in this incarnation, died, leaving young Prince Topher and the community at the mercy of the greedy, wily Lord Protector Sebastian. Though Topher is about to become king, he’s a little nervous, and clueless to Sebastian’s machinations; it will be Cinderella’s task to both open his eyes and boost his confidence.